4 ways to not fail in the food industry.
A few things we've learned along the way.
80% of startups within the food industry fail, and most of them fail within the production stage (read more about reasons why here). Within the food space, big companies dominate shelf space, distribution channels and pricing. Companies like Nestle, Hormel, PepsiCo and Sysco have control over the commodity market. When it comes to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, companies that have access to supply-chain, distribution channels and a strong manufacturing capacity reign supreme, making it hard (but not impossible!) for smaller startups to penetrate the market.
About failing... We don't know it all, but this is our story:
First off, let's be sure to set the record straight. For the sake of this article, failure is defined as a business that does not continue selling products or providing services after their initial market launch. Just because a (or your!) business failed according to this definition, it does not mean it didn’t provide value (phew!). Now let's begin.
1) Never give up on what you value.
We know, we know, it sounds cliché but running a business is like being married. You fall in love and then you just have to remember the commitment when beeswax hits the fan (as long as your relationship with your business is healthy... that’s a note for another day). One of the surest ways to have a healthy relationship with your startup is to make sure your values align with your business. We value family, we value health, and we value giving back. All 3 of these are present and when passion flounders, values are the surest foundation to keep us going.
2) Be vulnerable - know your weaknesses and strategically hire out for experts (or ask for help!).
Because we chose to grow slowly and organically, we didn’t do a lot of this at the beginning, we’re doing it more now. For us, we sought out a legal, tax & accounting experts and mentors that have a strategic-minded lens of business. I (hi, it's me, Denise!) love connecting with people and developing partnerships but that relationship-oriented strength doesn’t necessarily help with other key small business functions. Once you know this, it makes it 10x easier to recognize that you, alone, don’t have what it takes to level up in the industry. Do what you need to do to build a strong network: mentors, advisory board, educate yourself on what you need to learn to hire out effectively.
3) Learn the language of financials.
If you don't already. Numbers don't lie, they mirror behavior. And it's the surest way to stay clear-headed, unattached to outcome. In this way you become a social scientist of sorts, conducting tiny little experiments on a low-risk level, read the data objectively, then make informed decisions. There's also amazing research on how objectivity improves resiliency in entrepreneurs. Take that data and determine where it’s best to spend your energy and money. You might determine that “hey, this isn’t adding to the bottom line, but it’s creating emotional wealth and making me feel fulfilled.” There is value in that - be sure to factor that in for the long-term and do try other little experiments for the short-term.
4) Know that sustainability takes time.
Nothing sustainable happens in a rush (especially if you decide to grow organically) - know the direction you want to go and understand, as best as you can, the demand for it. This will help determine if the investment of time, energy and money going to eventually add value and pay off.
- Are people interested in this solution?
- Can this solution be expanded into a bigger brand experience and create more value to people?
- Have I built up the network (and capital) to help me get there?
Be patient - don’t fall for those get rich quick schemes or gimmicks.What other questions do you have? Drop them here. You might just see them turn into another Thought from the Peanut Gallery..